Ted Kheel: Make Subways and Buses Free

Theodore W. Kheel, the labor arbitrator extraordinaire who negotiated on behalf of Mayors O’Dwyer, Wagner and Lindsay, is spending close to $200,000 on a study to show how to make New York’s subway and bus systems free. It is expected to come out in early January, just as the state’s commission on congestion mitigation is preparing its final recommendation.

“Congestion pricing is fine,” Mr. Kheel, 93, told The Observer by telephone today. “But it should be accompanied by inducements for people to use mass transportation and to that end, we will be recommending that mass transportation be free, and we believe the numbers will show that free mass transportation will lead to a balanced system of moving people around this great city.”

He said that the study will show how to pay for the free fare but that he would not give the secret away beforehand. If his April op-ed from The New York Times is any indication, it sounds like he wants to devote congestion-pricing revenues to run the transit system, and maybe even throw Port Authority tolls into the mix.

He said that a foundation that he established and currently heads, the Nurture Nature Foundation, initially awarded the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility a $100,000 grant to conduct the study, and since then has spent almost another $100,000 on additional work undertaken by Community Consulting Services. Fenton Communications will do the publicity.